Tuesday, December 08, 2009

THIS IS MY STORY…by Tessie Aquino-Oreta

God, sometimes, plays a difficult joke on us if only to call our attention. I am so privileged to see up close how God moved and continues to move in the life former Sen. Ninoy Aquino's favorite sister, Sen. Tessie Aquino-Oreta.

Sen. Tessie is not running for any position in 2010, and so I guess she wouldn't mind my sharing her story.

By Tessie Aquino-Oreta

I've always thought of myself as a real favored child of God -- born to a good family, had good education, married a good husband, have good children. Whatever I wanted to do, I always succeeded. And somehow amidst the success, I forgot that I was only favored. Soon, everything went into my head. I began to believe that I, Tessie Aquino-Oreta, was great.

I started politics in the '80s. Very young and passionate, I ran in Malabon-Navotas even when surveys say I had very low awareness level. My brother Paul told me I was crazy for running when I was practically unknown. And so I challenged him, "What will make me win?"

A political strategist as he is, he gave me a long "to do" list and I followed it to the letter. When I won, the first thing I said to my brother was "See, I told you I can do it!"

I won a second term and then a third term. After my last term in Congress, I vied for the Senate. Again, my brother told me I was crazy. But I was confident. I never failed in whatever I did.

Somehow in the process, I forgot my successes were only God's favors. Pride crept into my being, into my heart.

When I won a seat in the Senate, I felt I was on top of the world. Sikat na sikat na ako! Sometimes, even just one phone call can make a difference in the lives of others. I tasted real power. I became proud.

Sadly, I started to forget that Someone up there planned for everything. And that everything that happens in our lives, and in my case, in my own life, has a purpose.

Fortunately, the one who planned my life didn't give up on me.

One day, at the height of my political career, maybe God thought, "My child, enough with your vanities. You have to know Who is in charge here. You need a little spanking."

And so, in January 2001, in just 5 to 7 seconds God caused everything to change. My world crumbled. I became the most maligned person in this country. I was used. Abused, if I may say so.

In that darkest moment of my life I remembered my God. The Lord led me to Victory Christian Fellowship. Soon, I became a regular not because of anything but somehow because I found peace and I found joy. People were so kind to me. They were going out of their way to provide me the strength that I needed. To guide me amidst the confusion.

It has never been a very easy walk for me. Not at all. Even as I regularly attend services and my small group Bible studies, I still had struggles. One day, I came into this verse -- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."

Suddenly, the Word became so clear to me. This is it. This is why even after I surrendered my life to the Lord, I was still confused – because I meddled in what the Lord was doing in my life. I had not really completely submitted to His Lordship.

Tessie kept interfering with what the Lord was doing in my life. So right at that very moment, I asked the Lord, "Lord, please take over. It's not anymore about me, Lord. It is all about You."

The Bible says that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Now, I came to fully understand that God lifts us up then breaks us in order to make us whole again.

That was exactly what happened to me in 2001. God broke me so that He can mold me, according to His ways.

As I studied the Word of God, I realized that for me to really enjoy His forgiveness, I also have to seek forgiveness from the people I have hurt. I realized that I have hurt the sensibilities of a lot of people for that what I did during the impeachment trial.

So in every opportunity that I have, I took it upon myself to ask for forgiveness from those who were hurt by my arrogance, by my haughtiness. It has not been easy. Yet, in so doing, I have seen how God has truly blessed me.

I used to keep on looking for a leader. But now I have stopped because I have found Him, my one True Leader. Now, I am very sure my Leader will always be here to guide me, to enlighten me, to tell me what to do. Now I have found a Leader who will always be there for me, to fight for me, One who will never leave me.

- End -

Monday, April 06, 2009

Reflections of a biker

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. - Hebrews 12.1

Life is so much like biking. Sometimes you pedal with a breeze. Sometimes you struggle a little. When the road is uphill, you need to exert more, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. Yet sometimes, you just have to be still and let go of the wheel.

Biking always refreshes me. It has become my refuge of sorts. It gives me time to be alone with God, to listen to Him, to pour out my heart to Him.

Today as I biked, my uphill route became more noticeable than in the past months. At one point, I wanted to get off my bike and just walk. Ironically, I've been taking the same route for years now and yet not once have I actually gotten off and walked. So I had to remind myself that a few more pedals and I would be fine.

In life, there are times of highs and lows, of struggles, of triumphs, and of letting go. We like it when we don't have to struggle much -- like biking and the path we're taking is easy. We like it even more when we are showered with blessings though we know we don't deserve it -- like biking on a downhill path and all we have to do is let go. But when life becomes a struggle, it is sometimes more convenient to give up than go on and face the uphill battle. Thankfully, we have a God who fights the battles for us. We just need to surrender all our struggles to Him. And just like in biking, all we have to do is keep on pushing the pedal of perseverance.

Let me share another favorite Words of Wisdom from the wisest man who ever lived.

A Time for Everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV)

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Haunted by a ghost

I've never been afraid of ghosts. Until very recently. This one is of the proverbial kind. Not your ordinary ghost. A very strong kind that has shaken the wits out of me -- the ghost of my past.

This encounter with the proverbial ghost has really been so humbling. I am human after all. Weak. Vulnerable. But I am also a spiritual being. A child of God. With Jesus in my heart, I only need to look at His face. And with Jesus on my side, who can be against me? On my own, it is very difficult to win the battle. In fact, I don't know how I will be able to survive it apart from God's grace. It is when we rely on our own strengths that we lose. But with Jesus fighting for us, we can rest assured that even before it has started, He has already finished it. And so I cast my cares to Him, the Giver of Life.

We will all encounter ghosts at some points in our lives -- of different kinds and forms. Ghosts that we thought have long been burried. Or ghosts that we never even thought existed. It will definitely not be easy. But if we fix our eyes on Jesus, the perfector of our faith, we can carry it on. After all, it is not our battle anymore. It is His.

In times like this, I find strength in God's assurance that He is our Light and our Salvation. He is our refuge, our Strong Tower. If you are faced with the same struggle, fear not. For He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is our Mighty Warrior.

Let me share one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. May it speak to your hearts as it did to me.

Psalm 27 (English Standard Version)
The LORD Is My Light and My Salvation

1The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

2When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

4 One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.

6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!

8 You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you,
"Your face, LORD, do I seek."

9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!

10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.

12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!

14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

This Warrior is a Child

Sometimes, we may seem strong on the outside. Undaunted. Determined. Upright.  But really, is there anybody who can claim that he can go on to the battle alone?  Thank God for Gary V.  This song is a great reminder that even warriors can sometimes be weak on the inside.  We all need Someone to give us strength.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

This thing called LOVE

What is this thing called LOVE? Some say it makes the world go round. Others say, it makes one blind. Oftentimes, we associate it with what is pleasing, "loveable." In this month of love, it is just apt to reflect on the true meaning of this four-letter-word. Here's an insightful reflection from Pastor Joey Bonifacio. Read on and spread the gospel of LOVE.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 

Here's are the 4 things that constitute love:

Love is being patient and kind. Whether we are dealing with a spouse, child, friend, associate or neighbor, to love someone is simply to be patient and kind to them.  

How do we know when we are not being patient or kind? When we envy. That's probably because we are impatient that God has blessed others more. When we boast. That's probably because we are impatient and unkind and wanting to prove ourselves better than others. You can figure the rest of this one out. It is impatience and unkindness that make us rude, self-seeking, angry and delighting in the shortcomings and failures of others.

For patience and kindness to be love it has to be done with rejoicing. A waiter, a boss, a lawyer, insurance agent, realtor, friend or spouse can all be patient and kind but the question is are they rejoicing as they do it or are they tolerating you because of what they can get in return.  

True love rejoices with the truth of anyone's limitations while continuing to be patient and kind. It rejoices in the midst of shortcomings, it rejoices where there are failures, disappointments and frustrations. It is able to smile and laugh as it faces the truth and insists on finding joy. This is who Jesus is.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 2

Jesus died on the cross with patience and kindness. His patience and kindness is the same reason why He came. But the more important point is that He did it for the joy set before Him. The joy of seeing us enter in to eternal fellowship with Him and the Father. Patience and kindness done with joy is love.

Finally, it says it always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. To love is to live in always. That simply means to be faithful no matter what.  

Love is patience, kindness, joy and faithfulness.  

Fact is it is not easy to love. While we were created to love, it can be challenge to love the unlovable always. The power to love comes from knowing God's love. Only when we realize and understand how patient, kind, joyful and faithful God has been toward us will we be able to love others the same way.

The good news is when we love we find fulfillment and completeness because love never fails.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Amore means love

Finally, I'm here in this place where my parents started their lives together as husband and wife. I have always wanted to visit Zamboanga because of my fascination over the love story of our parents. Mama and papa met in Negros during their high school days. I don't know how long they had been together, but apparently, the relationship displeased mama's family. They sent her on exile to this city, where mama lived with her relatives. 

Undaunted, papa went after her. Though Zamboanga was a strange place for him, papa went out in pursuit of his lady love. For one year, he went around Zamboanga looking for mama. It could be nothing less than true love that drove papa to brave an unkown land. He knew mama was brought to Zamboanga, but he didn't know exactly where. So on and on he went around and looked for her. Finally, one Sunday afternoon, his prayers were answered. He spotted my mother in Pasonanca park. He then ran away with her and refused to leave Zamboanga until they were able to convince mama's family to let them marry. 

Of course, they didn't exactly live happily ever after. There were hard times especially during the Martial Law years. But they loved each other so much. They were the happiest married couple I had ever seen. I almost never saw them quarrel. They remained ever sweet with each other even after almost 25 years together. (Unfortunately, mama died before their 25th anniversary.)  

When I was younger, I always wanted to have a marriage like theirs. Though not perfect, they were contented and happy. They braved the storms together, still standing up because they had a deep foundation -- their love for each other. Though I haven't really gone around the city, I can smell the sweet aroma of Zamboanga -- the sweet aroma of love

Friday, February 06, 2009

25 Random Notes about Me

  1. I dream of putting up my own travel agency cum coffee shop.
  2. I want to retire in Batanes someday and live like an Ivatan.
  3. I was almost vanished by my mother for "loving our neighbor" -- a seminarian.
  4. I used to bike to another town in high school.
  5. I almost fell from a 100-feet waterfalls.
  6. I'm afraid of heights and depths.
  7. I wanted to be a nun.
  8. I used to jump off a ship with my cousins. The sea was my playground.
  9. I love photography.
  10. I want to have a glimpse of Mt. Everest, even just a glimpse.
  11. I am praying to go to Israel.
  12. I either sleep or eat when I'm stressed.
  13. I can trade my husband for dark chocolates. Hahaha! (peace, dad!)
  14. I had a "love story" with Erap -- Inquirer headlines for his inagauration and ouster had my by-line in it.
  15. I am a full-blooded Negrense. Proud to be Bisaya!
  16. I don't believe in religion. It's all about personal relationship with Jesus.
  17. I am an advocate of hemophilia and other bleeding disorders.
  18. I don't like to travel by myself.
  19. I don't like spending on gadgets. Waste of money.
  20. I am friendly. I talk to strangers.
  21. I named all my kids after their grand/great grandparents.
  22. I drink at least five mugs of coffee a day. Can't live without it.
  23. I'm a sentimental fool. I keep old stuff.
  24. I seriously thought I was gonna have a heart attack while riding Disney's Space Mountain. Never prayed that hard I guess.
  25. I think typhoon-watching in Batanes is cool.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

His name is blessed

"I will cause my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." - Exodus 33.19

I love to share the story of Ben over and over again. He is a living testimony of God's endless miracles. Seeing Ben grow up into a talented, intelligent boy, is a bonus many times over.  

Every year as we celebrate his birthday, I become emotional. Not that I love him more. Dick and I are equally blessed with the girls and we love the three of them not less than any other. The girls are as talented and lovable in different ways. But the birth of Ben was a turning point in my life, and maybe in my hubby's as well, in so many ways. 

The uncertainty of his survival becomes fresh every time he turns a year older. I can still picture Ben as the helpless tiny baby inside the incubator in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. His arms were just a little bigger than my thumb. Yet, each of his tiny hands and one of his foot had IV tubes. He had another IV on the head because the doctors couldn't find any suitable vein on his other foot. He was breathing only through a ventilator. They fed him my milk through a tube placed on his nostril.  

The day Ben went into cardiac arrest a few days after his birth was probably the worst day of my life. The days that followed, not knowing whether or not he would survive, were so agonizing. I would never want to go through it again and I wish no parent would go through such a painful wait.  

But looking back, that episode with Ben, prepared us for many difficult situations we would soon encounter, including Star's bleeding condition. Because we have seen God's faithfulness in the way He gave Ben to us, we managed to hurdle so many storms. God gave us not only a wonderful son, but a faith anchored on the truth -- that Jesus is a Living God. My prayer is that Ben will grow up not only into a real gentleman, but a man after God's own heart in every aspect of the word.  

READ: The birthing of Ben

(Photos: 1-month-old Ben shortly after he left the hospital. One-year-old Ben. 7-year-old Ben with me in a coverage in Baguio. And the handsome 14-year-old Ben.)